Our sinuses serve two important functions. They help warm, moisten, and filter the outside air before it arrives in our lungs and, believe it or not, lighten the weight of our skulls. In fact, they do them so well that when they are working properly, we take no notice. However, as some 37 million Americans who are afflicted with sinusitis each year can attest, dripping or clogged sinuses demand attention. Symptoms can range from the bothersome to the debilitating and include sinus congestion, post-nasal drip, earaches, headaches, pain in the face, reduced sense of smell, bad breath, swelling of the eyelids and surrounding tissues, and even visual disturbances.
To better understand what is happening in your head during an episode, here is a description of its basic design. The sinus cavity is divided into six sections: two maxillary (located on either side of the nose and under the eyes), two frontal (just above the eyes), and two ethmoid (just above the bridge of the nose). All are lined with mucus membranes and cilia—tiny hairlike projections. When healthy, the membranes produce antibodies that help to fight off foreign invaders and the cilia serve to “sweep” out any foreign particles and keep mucus moving and draining. These built-in defenses, however, can become overwhelmed and an infection ensues.
The causes of sinusitis are many. It may be microbial—including bacterial, viral, or fungal. It may also be caused by allergies, both environmental and food-related. Or, it could be a combination of allergies and microbial, where an allergy causes an over-production of mucus, which may become a perfect petri dish for microbe growth. Sinusitis might be a chronic hypersensitive immune response to fungi, as recently evidenced by a Mayo Clinic study. There may also be a physical problem with a person’s drainage structure, such as a deviated septum or polyps. Another main cause of sinusitis is the inability of the cilia to perform their sweeping function. Exposures to chemicals and smoke have been shown to contribute to the paralysis of the cilia.
So with all of these different causes of sinusitis, how can one help to speed recovery? In my experience, the first place to start is with sinus irrigation or rinsing the sinuses with saline or other solution. Sinus irrigation washes away microbes and environmental allergens and irritants. This process support the sinuses built-in defense systems of preventing mucus build-up, reducing the chance of a secondary infection, as well as allowing the cilia to sweep the sinuses. Saline solution is excellent for relieving decongestion, but it may be a little irritating to the sinus tissues, especially for those with sensitive sinuses. I recommend adding a good tissue-soothing mix to the irrigation solution, such as BreatheEase XL.
Ideally, reducing, avoiding, or eliminating exposure to allergens, i.e., trigger foods, or using an air filter to eliminate environmental allergens, will help support sinus irrigation. In the meantime, reducing the histamine response is appropriate. There are many natural allergy remedies that inhibit histamine release. One of my favorites is Perimine by Metagenics. An extract of the perilla seed, it takes two to four weeks to get maximum benefit. Another preference is the use of the flowering perennial, nettle leaf. You may also want to consider Euphorbium Sinus Relief Nasal Spray, a homeopathic combination, to help decongest sinuses and keep them clear.
Bromelain has also proved promising in reducing the symptoms of sinusitis. In one study, 87% of patients taking bromelain reported good to excellent results. It is best to take bromelain between meals for optimal absorption.
If an infection is present, antimicrobials are certainly justified. Colloidal silver nasal spray is safe and beneficial in fighting bacteria, viruses, and fungi. I also suggest a combination anti-microbial product from Allergy Research Group called Tricycline, which is taken orally.
Sinusitis can be a debilitating and lingering condition. Hitting it from many different angles is the best approach. Experimenting with any or all of these recommendations will have you ignoring your sinuses in no time.